Dispatch (March 4th) from the Alliance for Securing Democracy

Our Take

ASD Director Laura Rosenberger and Co-Director Jamie Fly spoke at the George W. Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs last week. They also gave an interview to “Think,” a program on Dallas’ KERA radio, on lessons learned from the 2016 election and how our system remains vulnerable to authoritarian interference.

Rosenberger presented a paper titled “Russia’s Promotion of Illiberal Populism: Tools, Tactics, Networks” at a conference on “Global Populisms and their International Diffusion” at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. The paper outlines Russia’s relationship with illiberal populist groups in the West to advance Russia’s broader objective of undermining liberal democracies.

ASD Senior Fellow Josh Kirschenbaum and Peterson Institute for International Economics’ Nicolas Véron published an article in Breugel and on the Peterson Institute’s website calling on the EU to change its supervisory architecture to better fight money laundering. “A dedicated European-level AML agency,” Kirschenbaum and Véron say, “would solve coordination problems, develop strong capability and deep expertise, and enjoy enough political independence. This would result in more proactive supervision, more aggressive fines, and the establishment of credible deterrence.”

ASD Research Assistant Étienne Soula details in a new blog post how Russian government proxies are using unofficial means to extend Russian influence in Brussels ahead of the European parliamentary elections in May. Soula focuses on Russian oligarch Vladimir Yakunin’s new Dialogue of Civilizations think tank and argues that, “These events do not constitute isolated incidents. They are part of a broader pattern of multidimensional interference pursued by several authoritarian actors in the transatlantic space.”
News and Commentary
Facebook restores RT-affiliated pages after takedown: Facebook initially removed the pages of seemingly independent media outlets – whose connection to Russian state-owned media company RT ASD reported, along with CNN’s investigative team – because they did not disclose their relationship to Ruptly Media and its parent company, RT. Contrary to Maffick employees’ assertions, ASD did not call for the pages’ removal, but merely publicized the connection to RT. Facebook restored the pages after Maffick made the necessary disclosures on their pages. (Business Insider, Alliance for Securing Democracy, CNN)

U.S. Cyber Command disrupted internet access of Russian troll factory on day of 2018 midterms: Cybercom took the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA), now infamous for its interference activity during the 2016 election and beyond, offline on the day of the 2018 midterm elections. Some experts argued that the operation would probably not deter the IRA in future meddling and was more of a symbolic show of force than an actual effort to prevent malign interference. ASD Director Laura Rosenberger wrote that while Cybercom’s activity was a “welcome step,” it also fell short, because “by Election Day, the damage has been done. Our response needs to be much more sustained.” ASD has argued that the U.S. government should consider offensive cyber operations using appropriate authorities to deter and eliminate potential threats. (Oxford Internet Institute, U.S. Department of Justice, The Washington Post, Twitter, Alliance for Securing Democracy)

Outrage over European Parliament internship for daughter of Putin’s spokesman: Yelizaveta Peskova, daughter of Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, has been working as an intern for far-right French MEP Aymeric Chauprade. After becoming aware of her internship, several MEPs reacted negatively to her presence in parliament. One member from Lithuania called her internship “negligence” and “a very big shame on the face of the [European Parliament].” Chauprade dismissed the criticism of his choice of interns as “conspiratorial Russophobia.” Peskova’s internship should be viewed in the context of broader Russian government efforts to use unofficial proxies and cutouts to influence European and transatlantic political organizations. (EuObserver, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Euractiv, Radio France Internationale, Alliance for Securing Democracy)

In other news:

• A bipartisan bill was introduced in the House of Representatives calling on the U.S. intelligence community to report on the personal finances of Vladimir Putin and his family. • According to a report from King’s College London, Russia initiated a disinformation campaign after the Skripal poison attacks. • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of launching DDoS attacks against his country’s election commission.

• The European Commission has accused Facebook of withholding data on the company’s counter-disinformation efforts.

• A fraudulent Facebook campaign in Moldova copied the Internet Research Agency’s tactics to promote pro-Europe Moldovan PM Pavel Filip ahead of recent elections.

• German cybersecurity chief Arne Schönbohm made remarks indicating that Germany would not ban Huawei equipment from its 5G infrastructure.

• The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is launching a new task force with a broad anti-trust mission that will include re-examining mergers already improved by the government, including those between tech companies.

• Carnegie Moscow’s Andrey Pertsev argues that Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s importance has been overhyped by Western media, drawing him into Putin’s inner circle.

• The European Court of Justice overturned Latvia’s suspension of Ilmars Rimsevics, the governor of the Central Bank of Latvia, for bribe-taking.

• Political leaders in the Nordic and Baltic States have joined together to counter efforts by Hungarian PM Viktor Orban to tie European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to George Soros.

• Nine European and Canadian foreign ministers wrote an open letter to The Guardian, calling on the West not to abandon Crimea and Ukraine to Russian aggression.

• A Russian military court sentenced two former cybersecurity officials to 22 and 14 years in prison for treason for allegedly selling intelligence to the FBI.

• Venezuelan opposition leaders accused President Nicolas Maduro of laundering money stolen from the country’s treasury via a Russian investment fund.

• Swedish authorities arrested a high-level employee of a technology firm in Stockholm on charges of spying on behalf of Russia.

• The U.S. government restored the diplomatic status of the European Union’s mission to Washington.